AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Grief Eater – Grief Eater

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

Next up in the Rodeö circuit is the debut from Grief Eater, an enigmatic sludge doom act hailing from Ireland. This seems to be a relatively young band and information is scant regarding their shady past, future hopes and star-crossed dreams, but what intelligence there is can be found at their Bandcamp and Facebook pages. Open the gates!

Diabolus in Muzaka: Grief Eater’s self-titled debut is a bleak affair – this seems to be its goal. A mix of Neurosis and Evoken combined with the discordant melodicism of Ulcerate and Portal with some cadences recalling later Bolt Thrower, the pieces seem to be in place for something many will like but the execution, to my ears, leaves something to be desired. The riffs often lack a sense of identity or direction, content to glumly trudge onwards until an unceremonious conclusion. “Ephemeral Belief” stands out for this – after a long and highly effective building of tension, release comes in the form of a bland and meandering sludge riff. There’s an atmosphere of grey bleakness befitting the striking cover art here, but little effective is done within the world built by the music. Like an impeccably designed ghost town, what’s the point of the architecture, however good, if it’s devoid of life and vigor? 1.5/5.0

TheKenWord: Grief Eater. That’s one fantastic name for a sludge doom band. Featuring devastating riffs reminiscent of a skronkier Warcrab and vocals that would fit well within the hardcore framework, the Irish three-piece make quick work stripping away the flesh and bone of their audience. “Chamber” and “Ephemeral Belief” are the strongest pieces of malevolent aural evisceration, crushing spines beneath raw guitar tones and claustrophobic production, but every song has something that grabs you by the whiskers and body slams you to the cold, hard earth. However, while their debut release clocks in at a tight twenty-eight minutes, it feels longer. This is not a consequence of individual song quality, which is high across the board. Instead, it’s a question of flow. Songs feel complete and cohesive on their own for the most part, but they don’t always transition well (particularly between “Insular Domain” and “Empire of Profligacy”), thereby disconnecting me from the material. As a result, Grief Eater falls just shy of excellence. But I’m not worried. For a band only a few months old, this recording represents a substantial accomplishment that deserves to be heard. 3.0/5.0

Cherd of Doom: It’s probably no accident that Grief Eater reminds me of the 90s output of a band with half their name, Boston’s Grief. The former continues the lineage of stark sludge the latter helped define, but it’s more than that. Grief Eater‘s sound is as slow-but-agro as when hardcore and doom were first fused to launch the genre. There are contemporary flourishes, with a tremolo riff here, some Old Man Gloomy post metal there, but the heavy 90s hardcore is unmistakable in tracks like “Insular Domain.” Grief Eater is overall a solid debut: a few pleasingly raw if unmemorable moments, a couple songs that rise above average—”Chamber” and “Empire of Profligacy”—and one beast of a cut in closer “Ephemeral Belief,” which alternates between scorching blasts, stomping doom and a touch more melody than elsewhere. At only 5 songs and under 30 minutes, Grief Eater doesn’t outstay its welcome. 3.0/5.0

Carcharodon: When settling on a menu staple in a time of plague, grief seems like a solid choice, unlikely to be in short supply. And Dublin, Ireland’s Grief Eater certainly bring the misery with their brand of doom-laden blackened post-hardcore sludge. Think that’s a lot of genre tags? Well, yes, it undoubtedly is, but across a compact 28-minute runtime, Grief Eater contrive to channel the epic, glacial grandeur of Slow (“Chamber”), the blackened sludgy heft of Warcrab (“Insular Domain”) and post-hardcore tinged fury of Charger (“Imith in Éag”). What transforms the trio’s self-titled debut from a solid first outing to a really damned good start though, is the beast of a final track. “Ephemeral Belief” bursts into life with such vicious energy that I swear there’s just a hint of groove in the bass but this recedes, giving way to joy-crushing tectonic doom, with hint of post-metal melody. The sound is, probably deliberately, claustrophobically murky, giving Grief Eater a real sense of atmosphere, and allowing the throat-shredding roars to do their work on your nerves. The drum sound is at times questionable and a little thin but overall there’s little to complain about on a very strong outing. 3.5/5.0

Dear Hollow: Oh look, there are people congregating on the cover. They may look lost, but hey, it’s not about the destination but the journey, right? Even Grief Eater‘s influences feel like they’re breaking social distancing rules, as the Dubliners’ self-titled debut feels like the result of a wild night between NoothgrushDownfall of Gaia, and His Hero Is Gone. Think crushing sludge riffs, subtle melody, somber mood, and delightful crust punk influence. The best tracks “Insular Domain” and “Empire of Profligacy” revel in uptempo hardcore feeling, showcasing the juicy crunch of the guitar through staccato chugs, D-beats, blastbeats, and subtle melodic overtones. Meanwhile “Chamber” is downright sluggish in delivery, meandering with monotone sludge riffs for far too long doing too little. Opener “Imithe in Éag” and closer “Ephemeral Belief” encompass both camps in mixed tracks, showcasing Dirge-like post-metal riffs, Downfall of Gaia-esque melodies in passages of well-placed ambient plucking, alongside portions of lethargic sludge meandering. While track variety shows that Grief Eater is not a one-trick pony, it also points to the debut’s glaring inconsistency. No doubt attempting to show dynamics and growth across its twenty-nine minute runtime, tighter transitions and more variety in its sludge/doom portions would greatly benefit these youngsters. As a result, these Dubliners have a splattering of material in such a short window: much of it sticks in crushing energy, some of it lags behind in excessive sprawl. 2.5/5.0

Twelve: Grief Eater is hazy, doomy, sludgy, and hardcore in the screaming. Ordinarily, these attributes would be grounds for the disqualification of my interest, but hey, you don’t join the Rodeö because you’re expecting things to be easy. And every once in a while, it’s good to remind yourself that there is music out there beyond your preferences and expectations. And it turns out Grief Eater really delivers on gritty, atmospheric doom-sludge. While I don’t care for the vocal style, it’s well-done, and brings to life a series of aggressively unhappy riffs that really suck you into the music. This is as alive and alert as a record with “doom” in the style gets to be, shifting and adapting on a fairly consistent basis to keep the listener engaged. Of particular note is “Chamber,” a towering beast of a song that shifts seamlessly from Grief Eater’s sludgier tendencies to their more doom-laden ones and makes me feel downright uncomfortable — but in a good way. Oh, and I love the bass. It sounds awesome. 3.0/5.0

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